A massive convoy outside the Ukrainian capital has split up and fanned out into towns and forests near Kyiv, with artillery pieces raised into firing position in a potentially ominous movement of the Russian military, new satellite photos appeared to show.
The photos emerged amid more international efforts to isolate and sanction Russia, particularly after a deadly airstrike on a maternity hospital in the port city of Mariupol that Western and Ukrainian officials decried as a war crime.
The US and other nations were poised on Friday to announce the revocation of Russia's "most favoured nation" trade status, which would allow tariffs to be imposed on Russian imports.
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Unbowed by Western sanctions, Russia has continued its bombardment of Mariupol and other key targets.
Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed that the 40-mile convoy of vehicles, tanks and artillery has broken up and been redeployed, the company said.
Armoured units were seen in towns near the Antonov airport north of the city. Some of the vehicles have moved into forests, Maxar reported, with towed howitzers nearby in position to open fire.
The convoy had massed outside the city early last week, but its advance appeared to stall as reports of food and fuel shortages circulated.
US officials said Ukrainian troops also targeted the convoy with anti-tank missiles.
Russian forces were continuing their offensive toward Kyiv from the northwest and east, notably trying to break through Ukrainian defences from Kukhari, 56 miles to the northwest, through to Demidov, 25 miles north of Kyiv, the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said in a statement.
He said Russian troops had been halted in efforts to take the northern city of Chernihiv, notably by Ukraine's retaking of the town of Baklanova Muraviika, which Russian troops could use to move toward Kyiv.
Russian forces are blockading Kharkiv and pushing their offensive in the south around Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kryvyi Rih, President Volodymyr Zelensky's home town.
Rough weather on the Azov and Black Seas has stalled Russian ships' efforts to come ashore, the general staff said.
Three Russian airstrikes hit the important industrial city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine on Friday, killing at least one person in strikes that hit near a kindergarten and apartment buildings, according to interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko.
A US defence official said Russian forces moving toward Kyiv had advanced about three miles in the past 24 hours, with some elements as close as nine miles from the city.
In Mariupol, a southern seaport of 430,000, the situation was increasingly dire as civilians trapped inside the city scrounged for food and fuel.
More than 1,300 people have died in the 10-day siege of the city, according to deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
Residents have no heat or phone service, and many have no electricity.
Repeated attempts to send in food and medicine and evacuate civilians have been thwarted by Russian shelling, Ukrainian authorities said.
The number of refugees fleeing the country topped 2.3 million, and some 100,000 people have been evacuated during the past two days from seven cities under Russian blockade in the north and centre of the country, including the Kyiv suburbs.